First thing first, remember that just because we don’t have the technology to envisage the mind-body connection doesn’t mean it’s not real. You may find it hard to believe but every feeling you have influences some part of your body, and anxiety can wreak mayhem on your physical health. So if you want to have more control over your physical health and well being, then take more control over your emotional well being.
Consider this example
If you have a lot of sadness in your life it will eventually make your energy to flow incorrectly. It may fester in your lungs, flow in the wrong direction or it may spread out. If new and vibrant energy is not allowed to come into your lungs, you may start coughing or you may become vulnerable to a virus and get a cold. The bottom-line is – our emotional well being affects our physical well being.
The mind-body connection
It is believed that certain emotions are known to be associated with pain in certain regions of your body, but this is not scientifically proved yet! For example, those suffering from depression will often experience chest pains, even when there’s nothing physically wrong with their heart. The term ‘broken heart’ is real too as after losing a loved one, your risk of suffering a heart attack shoots up by 21 times!
What happens when we are stressed?
When you’re stressed, your body releases stress hormones like cortisol, which prepare your body to fight or flee. Your heart rate increases, your lungs take in more oxygen, your blood flow increases, and parts of your immune system become temporarily suppressed, which reduces your inflammatory response to pathogens and other foreign invaders. When stress becomes chronic, your immune system almost gives up. Now let’s see how our various emotions are affecting us…
Anger is associated with the liver. By its nature, anger causes life energy to rise, leading to a red face and red eyes, headaches, and dizziness. This matches the pattern of liver fire rising. Anger can also cause liver energy to “attack the temper,” producing lack of appetite, indigestion, and diarrhea. In a more long-term view, suppressed anger or frustration often causes liver to become stagnant; this might result in depression or menstrual disorders.
The emotion of joy is connected with the heart. A disorder related to joy may sound perplexing, since most people want as much joy in their life as possible. The disorders from this emotion are not caused by happiness; rather, the imbalance comes from too much excitement or stimulation, or sudden good news that comes as a shock to the system. When evaluating stress levels, psychologists look at all sources of stress, both positive and negative.
Too much happiness can kill you!
Clearly the death of a spouse or a job loss is a significant source of stress. However, a marriage or job promotion, while a happy occasion, is also a source of stress. A person who is constantly on the go, partying, and living a life of excess can eventually develop heart imbalances with palpitations, anxiety, and insomnia. A person with heart imbalances may also exhibit emotional symptoms, since the heart is the seat of the spirit. Such behavior results from the heart organ’s inability to maintain a stable resting pace.
A very common emotion in our stress-filled society, worry can deplete the life energy. This can cause digestive disturbances and eventually lead to chronic fatigue. A person who worries too much “carries the weight of the world on her shoulders.”
A person with this condition may exhibit such symptoms as poor appetite, forgetting to eat, and bloating after eating. In time, the person may develop a pale complexion from a deficiency of good energy. This can eventually affect the heart, causing the person to dream about the same subjects at night. Students are often affected by this imbalance.
The emotion of fear is related to the kidneys. This relationship can readily be seen when extreme fear causes a person to urinate uncontrollably. In children, this can also manifest as bed-wetting, which psychologists have linked to insecurity and anxiety. Long-term anxiety due to worrying about the future can deplete the functioning of the kidneys, eventually leading to chronic weakness.
Shock is especially debilitating to the kidneys and heart. The “fight or flight” reaction causes an excessive release of adrenaline from the adrenal glands that sit on top of the kidneys. This causes the heart to respond with palpitations, anxiety, and insomnia. Chronic stress from shock can be very debilitating to the entire system, causing a wide range of problems. Severe shock can have a long-term effect on the heart, as is evident in victims of post-traumatic stress syndrome.
The emotional life of the body
In modern medicine, we tend to take a very mechanical view of the body and the physiological functions of its component organs. But in many traditional medical systems, the internal organs were seen as being strongly affected by the emotions. Read more about these traditional notions in the upcoming slides…
The heart, being the principal organ of the Vital Faculty, is very sensitive to emotional states. Gracious, liberal, inspiring emotions like bravery, boldness, sincerity, frankness, unselfishness and empathy strengthen the heart, whereas immoral, constrictive, base emotions like weakness, nervousness, guilt, remorse, trickery and treachery weaken them.
The lungs are sensitive and vulnerable to many of the same emotional states as the heart, and responds similarly. The lungs need a feeling of psychic space within which to function; the phrase, “breathing room” is a common expression. The feeling of being smothered, invalidated, or denied one’s space can constrict the lungs and cause respiratory problems. Conversely, a feeling of dignity and pride puffs up the chest, and allows the lungs to expand and function properly.
The throat is the body’s main communications center. An inability to come out and speak one’s truth will often cause physical problems with the throat. The throat is also the upper end of the digestive tract. Acute emotional tensions and anxieties can agitate the Natural Force in the liver, causing it to rise and get bottlenecked in the throat; one then feels like one’s choking on something. Emotional gushings of sadness, grief or intense sentimentality will also cause a lump in the throat.
Liver, Gall Bladder
Bile is produced by the liver and stored in the gall bladder, which makes these two organs vulnerable to negative Choleric emotions like anger, irritability, frustration, resentment, jealousy and envy. These negative Choleric emotions are stored in these organs, and can slowly eat away if allowed to fester. Anger and rage can explode upwards from the liver into the head, causing a lot of havoc in their wake: headaches, migraines; red, sore, bloodshot eyes; and muscular tension in the neck and shoulders.
The stomach is a seething cauldron of emotions, and is intimately connected to the Gastric Center, or chakra, also called the Abdominal Center, which governs energy flow and distribution throughout the belly and gut. Choleric emotions like anger, hate, rage and frustration stored here lead to gastritis, ulcers and other Choleric stomach conditions.
Fright, fear and shock are most injurious to the kidneys. The energetic flow of these emotions is downwards, as they take away the foundation of security and self-assurance that we have. This also concerns the Root Center, or chakra, that root support or energetic foundation of strength and security that we have, which is closely connected to the kidneys and their balanced retention and evacuation of urine.
The brain comes last in our discussion of the emotional life of the organs because it’s often the effect of humoral and metabolic imbalances arising elsewhere in the body, which send subtle vapors up to the brain to influence its functioning.
Be happy, stay healthy
Scientists don’t yet fully understand the biological mechanisms at work, but they know that negative feelings like stress, sadness, and worry cause a spike in hormones that in turn suppresses the immune system. So, stay positive, stay happy and stay healthy! 🙂